How to avoid breeding parakeets

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Now that we have added a boy to our formerly all girl flock, some folks have asked if we plan to breed parakeets. The answer is a resounding “NO”! I plan to avoid breeding parakeets for several reasons:

  1. I have enough parakeets and don’t want more, particularly with my husband’s allergies, three molting parakeets is about all he can take! Also, the world does not need me to make more parakeets, there are loads out there that need a good home. I see lots of home-based breeders who have a hard time finding homes for their babies.
  2. Breeding parakeets can be incredibly difficult. If it goes well, maybe not, but even provisioning a nest box, nesting material, and then keeping the babies and nest clean is more than I want to handle. And that’s just basic human intervention, assuming mom and dad budgie do their job caring for the babies. If they can’t or won’t I would have to take over feeding babies on a crazy schedule, with a full time job there’s no way.
  3. The health risks to my adult females is not worth it for me. Laying budgies can become egg bound, which is potentially fatal. Yes, I know that every female parakeet may lay eggs, whether they are fertile or not. But, we’ve been able to keep our two girls, both in breeding condition for over a year, from laying at all. If I can prevent it, I do not want the presence of a male parakeet to change that track record.
  4. If allowed to begin breeding we could quickly end up with an excessive number of parakeets. Also, I would then have to worry about the baby parakeets growing up and wanting to breed with their clutch mates/siblings. Animals don’t have a sense that incest is undesirable, so it would be incumbent on me to make sure they didn’t breed with close relatives. And basically everyone in the cage would be a relative.
  5. The cost of care and potential veterinarian costs would rise exponentially with the numbers of parakeets, and I’m not prepared to take on a large additional expense.

How do I plan to keep them from breeding and laying?

  1. Provide no nest box or anything that could be perceived as a nest. I’m aware that some budgies will lay just about anywhere, including a cage floor or just randomly while sitting on a perch. But, not providing anything that could be construed as a next box is one way to discourage laying. This means no flat wood perches, no food bowls that they can comfortably sit in, and absolutely no Coconut Hideaways , Sea Grass Bird Snuggle Huts or anything else that they can hide in, sit on, or may otherwise see as a desirable place to raise children.
  2. Limit daylight hours. We need to keep day and night even, if the budgies think that it’s springtime with longer days they may decide it’s a good time to start laying. We are going to make sure that everyone gets 12 hours of darkness and no more than 12 hours of light. If things start getting amorous we may push it back to more darkness than that.
  3. Separate the sexes. No one has expressed any romantic interest in Kevin yet, but it the cage starts rocking I will probably make the choice to keep Kevin caged apart from whichever girl wants to mate with him. We just got down to one cage, so that will not be ideal, but if they are only together under adult supervision, and with the third wheel of the other girl, hopefully we can keep these crazy kids from knocking beaks.

I know there’s no way to 100% keep them from laying eggs if their bodies tell them to do it, but I can still control what happens at that point. I’m sure that this is a bit controversial, or offensive to some, but I don’t believe that my female parakeets have a natural “right” to reproduce. I think that it’s okay for me, the ultimately responsible party, to ensure that we don’t bring more parakeets into the world. Here are some options for what to do if we end up with unwanted eggs.

  1. After the first egg is laid, complete the clutch with Dummy Eggs . Using the dummy eggs to get up to a full clutch of seven can make the budgie stop laying. At that point I would just leave her the fake eggs to care for until she was bored of them.
  2. As eggs are laid, shake, boil, or freeze them and then return to the cage. If boiling or freezing, make sure the eggs come back to room temperature before returning. Again, wait until the parakeet is tired of caring for the eggs and then remove.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we can keep everyone in the friend zone. But, if not, I’m glad to have a plan for contingencies and unwanted eggs. I would encourage every parakeet parent to leave breeding up to the pros (including home-based pros, of course!) and also to be mindful of the fact that there is no shortage of parakeets out there already who are looking for good homes.

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Parakeet weight update – have Toby & Kelly slimmed down?

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Our new parakeet, Kevin, seemed shockingly small to us when he first came home. Compared to Toby and Kelly he was as light as a feather. We naturally felt that he was underweight, but since he was having such a hard time with trust we didn’t think we could get him on the Food Scale for a weight in. We weighed Toby and Kelly instead and, to our horror, found that they were overweight! Looking up healthy parakeet weight, you will find a few different ranges, some say 25-36 grams is the healthy range, while others say 30-40 grams. I should mention that all of our parakeets are the smaller Australian parakeet, versus the larger “English” budgie.

Toby and Kelly knocked it out of the park, with Toby weighing in at 43 grams and Kelly at a whopping 55 grams!  Ouch! I immediately renewed my commitment to healthy feeding. Right now they are on a mix of Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine, Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend Natural Food for Parakeets. The Harrison’s high potency is not a forever thing, Harrison’s recommends switching over to pellets with the high potency and then switching to Harrison’s Adult Lifetime Super Fine which is for long term feeding.

I am still completely on the fence about pellets in general. I’m not sure that they are part of my long term feeding plan. But, I’ll try anything to see what works best for our flock!

In addition to changing up our food mix, I also recommitted to feeding fruits or vegetables every day, and that’s been going well! I think I enjoy watching them play around on a plate of veggies as much as they enjoy doing it. I’m not convinced they are eating all that much of it, but as long as they throw the food around and get some enrichment I’m good.

It’s been about a month since we made the changes, and while they haven’t shed enough grams for a stunning before and after photo I’m happy with the progress. Toby is down to 40 grams, and probably at a healthy weight for her. Kelly dropped to 50 grams, which is percentage-wise a substantial loss.  We will keep working on her, but I do seriously think that she has a bigger frame than Toby and Kevin and should probably weight more.

Kevin decided it would be okay to get on the scale and originally weighed in at 23 grams, which is too low, but I think he was scared to eat well in quarantine. Also I’m pretending that the weight of his missing flight feathers would have gotten him into a non-danger zone of being underweight!

Now that he’s been out of quarantine for a few weeks he is up to 29 grams, which is a nice and respectable, but still quite slim.

I’m hopeful that we can keep Kevin and Toby where they are and maybe help Kelly lose a few more grams. The parakeets are all bunking in together at this point and I think that having in-cage companionship during the day may help encourage all of them to play more. Fingers crossed that it keeps going well, but it’s great to see that a few changes can make a difference in helping to maintain a healthy parakeet weight!

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A couple of uses for discarded seeds and hulls

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No matter how you feed your budgies, at some point you probably end up with a bunch of seed hulls. Mixed in with those seed hulls are unwanted seed and maybe some pellets, dried fruits and veggies and herbs, depending on your preferred brand of parakeet feed. There’s no need to throw those discarded seeds right into the trash. Here are a couple of ways to extend their life.

  1. Use them as a fun enrichment. I feed Toby and Kelly 2 tablespoons each of a mix of the following every morning: Dr. Harvey’s parakeet blend, Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine Pellets. Even though it’s only 2 tablespoons per day, there’s always some leftover. They especially do not like the sesame seeds in the Dr. Harvey’s, and they are still getting used to the pellets. So, every morning when I refresh I put the leftovers into a Tupperware container that I keep on my kitchen counter next to the seed mix. Tupperware of discarded seedsThere’s still a ton of great stuff in there! So, I use it as an opportunity for foraging enrichment. Either I pour some on top of a fruit or vegetable I’m getting them to try, or a little bit on a flat plate really gets them excited. For a super fun Saturday I pour a good 1/4 inch onto a plate and let them go crazy. They really love digging through the discards and finding delectable morsels they missed the first time around, and I love getting just a little more use out of the good quality food I spent my money on!uses for discarded seeds and hulls
  2. When you are truly done with the discards, throw what you’ve collected over the week outside for the outdoor birds and squirrels. I have two squirrels right now in my backyard digging through my budgies leftovers. It’s winter so I’m sure they are happy to have the little bit of extra food. Soon the birds will come and pick through the rest. What my picky eaters are too good for turns into a treat for wild birds.

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much to them, but in a “waste not want not” kind of way it makes me feel good not to put usable seeds and pellets into the trash.

Does anyone else use their discarded seeds and hulls for anything?  If you’ve got ideas I’d love to hear them!  Otherwise, if you’re throwing out uneaten seeds on a regular basis I hope you’ll consider saving them for foraging, either for your budgies or the outdoor birds.

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Bed time is a total nightmare with three budgies!

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After several days of all three cages out in the main living area Patrick and I were more than ready to consolidate parakeets and get back down to two cages. Kevin’s quarantine cage was more than half blocking the hallway to the bedroom and bathroom so you’d have to sort of sidle past. Not only was this a pain for us, but we were definitely waking Kevin up every time we went from the living room to the rest of the house after 7pm! Little did I know that reducing the number of cages would result in a budgie bed time nightmare for all of us.

The first surprising decision we made was to move Toby into Kelly’s flight cage and put Kelly and Kevin in the HQ Victorian Top cage.  Everyone seemed to enjoy using that cage during the day, choosing to nap in there and hang out on the porch like they used to. It was always Kelly’s favorite cage too, we only upgraded her because she seemed so agitated we thought she needed a larger space, but it turned out she was just generally dissatisfied being separated from Toby, even if it was for her own safety!

So, we picked a morning and reduced the three cages down to two, and Kevin found his new favorite spot on a  perch between them. We changed things up in every cage, trying to shake them all up and reduce any feelings of ownership or territoriality.

Kevin looking very handsome prior to the budgie bed time nightmareThe first day went swimmingly. They moved between cages and had a great time hanging out together and negotiating their lives as a flock of three. Kevin is still doing a lot of observation, and refuses to get involved in petty arguments. Toby likes to try and intimidate other birds from eating, but Kevin very calmly stands his ground and they typically end up eating out of the same bowl! It’s funny how he can be passive but at the same time he usually gets what he wants without being violent.

Soon the whole day had passed and it was time for everyone to bed down. I decided to try having Kevin sleep in with Toby in the big cage, because he is so chill about everything I really don’t have to worry about her being too aggressive with him, where as I had still seen Kelly aggressing on him a bit.

As soon as the lights dimmed I realized we had a bit of an unexpected issue. Kevin wouldn’t settle down! He kept climbing up and down the side bars closest to Kelly. I intuited that he wanted to be with Kelly and moved him to Kelly’s cage, leaving Toby alone.

Well, that didn’t work. Kelly was agitated and wanted to be in the next cage over with Toby. I would have been okay with letting her burn off the energy and giving up but she started biting the cage bars, which makes this absolutely infuriating clangy bang noise that drives me up a wall.

I then moved Kelly into Toby’s cage. That didn’t work for two reasons. Toby attacked Kelly immediately and Kevin got very upset that he was all alone.

So – I moved Kevin into the flight cage with Kelly and moved Toby into the cage on the left by herself.

At this point both Kelly and Toby are upset. Kelly because they are separated again and Toby because she can’t settle down, there are two toys higher than the perches in the HQ Victorian so she has to try to sleep on them, and can’t get comfortable, shockingly, on the narrow ledge of a mirror top.

It was like the most deranged shell game ever. Finally after about an hour of shuffling them around like a moron I stuck them all in the flight cage and decided to let them sort it out. Toby and Kelly battled noisily for about half an hour, because although there were at least 4 places to sleep at the exact same level they both needed to be on a small Y-perch. Kevin stayed completely out of it on another perch entirely, but I’m sure it wasn’t restful.

Finally they settled and Toby fell asleep with one foot on the perch and one foot on a cage bar. I’m guessing that she relaxed her grip when she fell into a deeper sleep because not an hour later she biffed off the perch and had quite a nice little night terror, her first in well over a year! The lights went back on and I spoke to her a bit less than sweetly until she was calmed down.

After that point we were mostly quiet except for some little squawks and angry noises. I kept one ear open all night expecting to hear another night terror, but all was quiet and everyone was undamaged this morning, at least physically!

Irrationally, perhaps, I think we are going to try having them sleep all together again, and possibly even hang out together in the flight cage when we leave the house. I know it’s taking a risk with Toby and Kelly getting in fights still, but I am so tired of Kelly being miserable that I think they need another shot at working it out. I hate leaving Kevin in the middle of it, but he’s pleased to be around budgies and I’m not sure he minds.

I’ll keep a sharp eye on everything as it develops, of course, and be ready to make adjustments and shuffle them around, but at this point I think I need to give myself a bit of a break and let them try to get it sorted! I can’t have another budgie bed time nightmare like that one at the very least.

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A very budgie Christmas – budgie gifts are the best!

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The holidays can be a relatively hectic time of year, it’s always fun, but there are lots of folks to visit and celebrate with. Patrick and I decided a few years back that we would pick a day after Christmas and use that as our Christmas Day for our own traditions and gift exchange. That way we wouldn’t miss out on any of the extended family fun, but we could still have a day that felt special to us. He really knocked it out of the park this year and I received a number of awesome budgie gifts!

We also don’t buy a traditional Christmas tree, both for parakeet and human-based reasons. With the parakeets I worry that buying a non-organic tree could put them at risk of ingesting pesticides and other chemicals if they landed on the tree. As far as fake trees go, I would fret about them chewing on the needles and eating plastic. I’ve never pretended to be blasé about life, so this tree-related angst probably comes as no surprise to anyone! In addition to my parakeet/tree issues, my husband also has a bunch of allergies and chemical sensitivities that make either kind of tree a challenge to his well being. So, several years ago we ditched the concept of traditional trees and have either used a Java Tree for the birds with holiday-themed ornaments, or Patrick builds a tree out of cardboard and it’s a temporary affair.

This year was a build year – he used cardboard, tissue paper, tiny fake tea light candles and here’s the result.

It is very beautiful with the lights flickering, there’s even one in the star.  And the birds totally ignore it because it’s relatively short and not in one of their flight paths.

On to the budgie gifts!  It’s probably poor form to “brag” about the things I got for Christmas, but I feel like other parakeet lovers will want to know these things exist!

This tank is the cutest thing! It would be a great workout tank or just lounging around the house in summer.  Patrick wanted to find one with a parakeet that looked like Kelly, since she’s our big girl, but she’s not a very common color. budgie gift

Usually I’m not a huge fan of these figurines, but it’s a girl with three birds! So cute! Patrick even took some crayons and colored the birds to resemble Toby, Kelly and Kevin. I mean, come on, how sweet is that?

budgie gifts

The real star of the Christmas show, however, was this custom necklace he had made to look like Toby.

budgie gifts - a custom necklace of TobyIt looks exactly like her!  Down to the expression in her eyes. Patrick said he provided the shop owner with three pictures of Toby to start and then they refined from a proof after that. The shop owner was incredibly responsive and polite, even when he made multiple changes and asked that she rush the order for Christmas delivery.

The shop name on Etsy is NicomadeMe and based on Patrick’s experience and the finished product I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her! It’s not often that a gift makes me teary-eyed, but this one did that quite spectacularly.

Did you receive any fabulous budgie-related gifts this holiday season?  Let me know so I can build by wish list for next year!  I hope everyone had a safe and warm holiday full of love and feathers – happy new year all!

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Introducing our new parakeet to the flock

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Kevin finally made it through quarantine! It was harder and a lot less fun than we all anticipated and it makes me so glad that he has made it through and can be with the flock. Of course, introducing parakeets can be a tense situation, so the relief at his getting through quarantine was immediately followed by anxiety about merging him into the flock of Toby and Kelly.

This was compounded by the fact that Toby and Kelly can be pretty tough customers. They live separately now because of some violent interactions between the two of them and I was worried they would immediately attack Kevin. When we introduced Kelly to Toby we took it too fast, so this time the process was a lot more measured and thought out, although probably still a bit too speedy.

First, a few days before the official end of quarantine we started moving Kevin’s cage out into the dining area where Toby and Kelly live for half hour blocks of time. This way everyone could check each other out and learn a bit about the new guy. The change in Kevin’s demeanor was immediate, as soon as he saw other budgies he clearly felt a lot better about life. He was preening himself, making little noises, and eating in front of us. It was like a magical switch was thrown that turned him back into a parakeet! As soon as he would go back into his quarantine room he would go right back into fear mode, unfortunately.

After a few days of letting them see each other from the safety of their own cages, we allowed Toby and Kelly to come out and inspect Kevin more closely.

Introducing parakeetsThis may not have been the best idea, but it worked well in this situation. Toby and Kelly felt like they were in control of everything and Kevin was still so thrilled to feel safe that he tried to pack the preening of several weeks into a 45 minute period. Even when the girls got a little aggressive through the bars he didn’t react back at all, which was perfect.

Finally the day came where they could all be out together. We introduced everyone in Patrick’s home office space, a room that no one wants to be in (least of all Patrick haha)! That didn’t last long, Toby and Kelly wouldn’t stay in that room, even with millet, and kept flying back to their home base. We gave up on that in short order and put Kevin out with them on top of the cages in the dining room.

introducing parakeetsIt was utterly nerve-wracking!  They were SUCH bad girls! Toby immediately chomped on his head and tried to bite his wings. Kelly kept tugging (hard) on his tail feathers any time he was in range of her beak. When the girls began working together to corner him I thought all of my worst nightmares about his assimilating into the flock were coming true!

Patrick kept reminding me that they needed to figure out whether Kevin was a threat to them, and also to put him in his place and make sure he knew that they were top dogs. Kevin was perfection, no matter what they did the first day he didn’t react at all, just tried to observe them. He quickly realized that he couldn’t put his back to either of them and stood at the corner of one of the cages watching. He was still quite delighted to be out with them, even if it looked to me like a miserable time!

Toby got scolded several times for exceedingly ungracious behavior, and when we put them all in their homes for the evening Patrick and I couldn’t quite sort out whether we felt it went well or horribly!

The next day we decided to move Kevin’s quarantine cage into the bird area so they could observe each other at all times. They came out all together again and it did go better, although there was still a lot more violence than I would have liked I could see that they were testing him. If provoked, Kevin would make a small show of fronting back, but not actually fight, it’s awesome.

For his part, even if he had to watch his back, the transformation in Kevin was incredible! He was making sweet noises and flock calling, moving around, preening, and acting like the lovely guy we picked out at the pet store.

Every subsequent day has been even better, they still treat him a little like an outsider to their girl club, but Toby and Kelly have accepted his presence and don’t try to pull his feathers out (as much). Kevin is a fantastic addition to the flock and we couldn’t be happier with his attitude and his willingness to go with the flow. He and Kelly should be combining households soon and I think it’s going to be great for both of them.

introducing parakeetsIt’s a relief to have gotten through the initial introductions with no bloodshed! I’m excited for Kevin to get his flight feathers back so that they can fly together, and for he and Kelly to be roommates, which I hope will be good for both of them.

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The best socks ever – not surprisingly, budgie socks!

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I don’t make a habit of going around looking for products with budgies on them. If I did, my whole house would be an homage to budgies and other parrots and packed to the gills with artwork and knickknacks! But, I did see something recently that fell into the “have-to-have” category and seemed justifiable in it’s utility. The item in question was a pair of socks with budgies on them, and being winter, everyone needs new budgie socks, right?

The Socksmith Women’s crew socks “budgies” come in two colors, blue and pink, one with a blue budgie and one with green, so if you’ve got one of the more standard color budgies there’s a pair for you! I purchased both pairs because why not. I should perhaps mention that I have a pre-existing penchant for purchasing novelty socks which may have influenced my impulse spending.

I anxiously awaited the arrival of my new socks and eagerly ripped open the package as soon as they hit my doorstep. I was very pleased with their feel, made of 68% bamboo they were very soft before even washing. I always wash new clothing before wearing, so I threw them in the laundry and kept my fingers crossed that they wouldn’t fall apart immediately. One never can be certain of quality with a novelty sock purchase.

Happily they made it through and came out even softer on the other side. I washed on delicate and then tumbled dry with low heat. There’s probably not much call to talk about laundry products on a budgie blog, but since all of the humans and birds in my house are sensitive to fragranced products, we use Seventh Generation Natural Laundry Detergent Free & Clear – 50 Fl oz, and add White Vinegar as a fabric softener. Since we are totally unscented and trying to avoid chemicals for both the human and budgie inhabitants we use Wool Dryer Balls to help with static cling in the dryer.

Sorry for the tangent!  I get kind of preachy about scented laundry products because it’s one area that a lot of people don’t think of where they are adding unnecessary fragrance to their lives every day. With increasing numbers of people walking around with chemical sensitivity it’s incumbent on all of us to think about what we’re putting out into everyone’s airspace.

Now I’m sorry for that tangent!  Back to the cute budgie socks!

budgie socks!

I did not actually mix and match my budgie socks but they do look sort of cute together, so no judgement if you go for it!

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